Monday, January 31, 2011

Today's Granma on Egypt protests

Two news articles: “Sixth day of protests in Egypt” (based on AFP) and “Egypt tensions could affect petroleum market.

There’s also a Fidel Castro commentary that knocks U.S. “Machiavellianism” for supplying arms to the Egyptian government “while USAID supplied funds to the opposition.” He concludes: “Will the United States be able to hold back the revolutionary wave shaking the Third World?”

CNN story here. Yoani Sanchez tweets that she is keeping her contacts informed by text messages.

Odds and ends

  • Telecom Italia, the foreign partner in the Cuban wireline and cellular phone monopoly Etecsa, has sold its share of the business to a state enterprise, Rafin S.A. (Bloomberg)

  • Politico says Rep. David Rivera’s “political condition has been downgraded from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘likely one-termer’ to ‘possible half-termer’ amid deepening corruption investigations, and [he] looks like a growing liability for the new GOP majority.” At Penultimos Dias, Ernesto Hernandez Busto says he’s hurting the cause.

  • From Wikileaks, a 2009 report from Embassy Caracas that Spain’s Repsol had canceled its plan to drill in Cuba’s Gulf waters.

  • The text of Rep. Buchanan’s bill to dissuade international oil companies from participating in Cuba’s energy development.

  • El Nuevo on a new documentary on Cuban Jewry.

  • Don’t say you weren’t warned: Juventud Rebelde explains that the government means business when it puts up “no parking” signs. Your car can get towed or booted, and there are fines to pay (in hard currency for foreigners or Cubans residing abroad).

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Cuba regulations published

Today’s Federal Register contains the regulations that make effective the January 14 White House announcement on Cuba policy: on travel and remittances, and on the airports that handle flights to Cuba. The regulations took effect upon publication.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

As we say, not as we do

Penultimos Dias posts a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the cash flow resulting from current Cuban-American travel to Cuba: about $1.7 billion, which would amount to about 1.5 percent of gdp. Additional economic impacts come from remittances and the massive amounts of goods that Cuban Americans bring on those flights – some for consumption, some to provide the wherewithal for entrepreneurs to do their work, some for resale.

We can quibble about the estimates but all agree: it’s a significant amount of money.

What is the impact? Some goes to the government, some goes to individuals. Some of the money that goes to the government supports services for the public, and some that goes to individuals ends up with the government, through taxes or mark-ups at hard-currency stores.

A substantial segment of the Cuban-American community – about ten planeloads a day out of Miami – could care less about sorting this out. Contrary to the views of those they elect to Congress, they send their money, buy their plane tickets, go to Cuba, take their families out to restaurants, take them to stay in tourist hotels, and help them as best they can.

They act as regular immigrants, but they elect legislators who consider themselves exiles.

When these legislators talk about Cuba policy, they don’t take a sanctions-begin-at-home approach. Has anyone ever seen them try to persuade their own constituents to stay at home, not to travel to Cuba, not to support such a huge flow of hard currency to Cuba?

The concern about hard currency kicks in now, when President Obama plans to open up travel – partially – for the rest of Americans.

Do as we say, not as our constituents do.

[AP photo.]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

RFK and Cuba

I thought it was curious a few years ago when efforts were made to publicize a memorandum by former Attorney General Robert Kennedy in favor of allowing unrestricted travel by Americans to Cuba (see, for example this 2009 Washington Post op-ed).

It was a great memo as far as I’m concerned, but the bulk of RFK’s record on Cuba had nothing to do with people-to-people contacts. It had to do with his brother’s unusual delegation of foreign policy functions to the Attorney General, with RFK’s direction of operations that would be called terrorism today, and with the Kennedy Administration’s Bay of Pigs disaster, a gross betrayal of allies and a waste of lives on both sides of the beach that would be impeachable today. Or at least we would like to think so.

The records of RFK’s official actions regarding Cuba during that period are being bottled up by his family, as this item on James Fallows’ blog details. These are official papers, not personal papers, and it’s a travesty that they are under family rather than government control.

Odds and ends

  • More prisoners will soon be on their way to Spain, El Pais reports, and they are not among the 75 arrested in the spring of 2003. The article reports that the 54 released so far were accompanied by an average of five family members each.

  • Politico reviews the issues, legal and political, involved in the investigations of the finances of Rep. David Rivera.

  • Reuters: Small businesses are expanding in Cienfuegos, with an emphasis on restaurants and lodging.